On behalf of Meiji Gakuin University, I extend congratulations to our incoming students and their guardians and welcome you to our University.
At Meiji Gakuin, we usually hold school entrance ceremonies, graduation ceremonies, and other important events in our chapel, so normally we would have all incoming students gather there and provide guardians with separate rooms, from which they could watch the ceremony by video. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has forced us to take a different approach this year: we will provide students with rooms from which they can participate by video, and allow guardians to watch the ceremony in a streamed video at a later date. We ask for your understanding regarding this decision.
I began serving as president in April of last year, and I vividly remember that time one year ago. I feel that our fear of COVID-19 has changed somewhat in the intervening time; last year it felt as if we were in a long, dark tunnel with no idea how far ahead the exit might be, but today, while we remain in the tunnel, we can at least be hopeful about reaching the exit, so long as we follow the correct path along the way.
Having just emerged from the tunnel of college entrance exams, I’m sure many of you were feeling a sense of relief, looking forward to the many opportunities our university offers. Hopefully, you will soon be emerging from yet another tunnel. With luck, we will conquer the COVID-19 virus, and you will experience that moment when all of society feels a sense of relief, looking forward to the many opportunities that freedom from that worry will offer.
Historically speaking, moments like that do not come often. We are still suffering from COVID, but in the near future you may become part of the vital generation that starts our post-pandemic era. I therefore hope you will start your university life thinking about what you want to do when the pandemic has settled. Those dreams will become ideas for the post-pandemic era.
That being said, the threat of COVID-19 has not yet subsided, and the reality is that you will need to be extremely vigilant against infection in all your college activities. Nearly half of our classes in spring semester 2021 will likely be held online. Meiji Gakuin University considers face-to-face learning as the basis of university education, so we are increasing the number of face-to-face classes to the extent possible. We hope that our incoming students too will participate in on-campus activities as much as possible and foster relationships with others.
A university is more than just a place to teach classes. A university campus is a place that provides opportunities for many and varied experiences: making friends, engaging with instructors and faculty, encountering knowledge and scholarship, joining interest groups, and many other activities. The University will do its best to support you in that, including offering scholarships, so that your student life will be a meaningful time.
The educational philosophy at Meiji Gakuin University is “Do for Others.” Considering how the pandemic has warped society, I believe this concern for others is now more important than ever.
Your university life begins today, and as a member of the University faculty I hope that on our campuses, you will encounter friends and knowledge that will stay with you your entire life.
Again, congratulations on your joining our University.
I extend my congratulations to our incoming undergraduate and graduate students, as well as to their guardians, family, and other relations.
I once read a newspaper column that provided me with an important perspective. It concerned the difference between “sense of belonging” and “sense of base.” For example, when we have too strong a sense of belonging regarding our country of origin, when we hear criticisms of our country from others, we might feel as if we have been personally insulted and become angry, regardless of whether that criticism is justifiable. By contrast, those having a sense of base recognize the place where they were born and raised as their “base,” but do not equate that place with themselves. They want that place to be as comfortable as possible, so they actively accept criticism as a means for improvement. In the case of a university too, that column said, students and faculty should have not a sense of belonging, but a sense of base.
After joining Meiji Gakuin University, you will be joining faculties and seminars, along with various student groups, and when doing so I hope you will do just that; please develop not an overly strong sense of belonging, but rather a sense of base, considering these groups as your base for learning, research, and activities toward improving yourselves.
Another perspective is to view our world as if you are looking at it from space, as described by Dr. Carl Sagan, director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, in his book Cosmos and the television series based on it. When viewing Earth from space, we see no national boundaries, so any disputes over those boundaries seem like inconsequential affairs. We might also consider whether a visitor from another planet would be able to distinguish between human races. Humanity comprises just a single species, so ethnic conflicts too seem silly.
If humanity cannot overcome its aggressiveness, its hostility toward others, and its tendency to easily succumb to despots, it seems doubtful we will survive far into the future. Surviving and prospering will instead require compassion for others, love for our children and grandchildren, a willingness to learn from history, and a great and passionate intelligence.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, we are headed into a world in which the experiential knowledge of today’s adults will not be enough. In the world of the future, you can expect to be dealing with problems such as global warming, managing resources and energy, furthered development of artificial intelligence and communications technologies, genetic manipulation, and new infectious diseases.
As you make your way through that world, I hope you will sometimes pray, but also think for yourself, use your best judgement, and hold others important as you forge new paths. May the blessings of God be upon each of you who will be studying at our University and Graduate School, and again, I offer my congratulations.